Long-term acclimation to near-future ocean acidification has negligible effects on energetic attributes in a juvenile coral reef fish

Increased levels of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) drive ocean acidification and have been predicted to increase the energy use of marine fishes via physiological and behavioural mechanisms. This notion is based on a theoretical framework suggesting that detrimental effects on energy use are caused by plasma acid–base disruption in response to hypercapnic acidosis, potentially in combination with a malfunction of the gamma aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors in the brain. However, the existing empirical evidence testing these effects primarily stems from studies that exposed fish to elevated CO2 for a few days and measured a small number of traits. We investigated a range of energetic traits in juvenile spiny chromis damselfish (Acanthochromis polyacanthus) over 3 months of acclimation to projected end-of-century CO2 levels (~ 1000 µatm). Somatic growth and otolith size and shape were unaffected by the CO2 treatment across 3 months of development in comparison with control fish (~ 420 µatm). Swimming activity during behavioural assays was initially higher in the elevated CO2 group, but this effect dissipated within ~ 25 min following handling. The transient higher activity of fish under elevated CO2 was not associated with a detectable difference in the rate of oxygen uptake nor was it mediated by GABAA neurotransmitter interference because treatment with a GABAA antagonist (gabazine) did not abolish the CO2 treatment effect. These findings contrast with several short-term studies by suggesting that end-of-century levels of CO2 may have negligible direct effects on the energetics of at least some species of fish.

Sundin J., Amcoff M., Mateos-González F., Raby G. D. & Clark T. D., in press. Long-term acclimation to near-future ocean acidification has negligible effects on energetic attributes in a juvenile coral reef fish. Oecologia. Article (subscription required).

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